In Recruiting, Go Ahead — Challenge Your Prospect!

February 13, 2012

Our first instinct in any type of sales role is to give the “customer” what he/she wants, right? I would agree with that, but only to a very certain extent. Naturally when we’re speaking with a prospect, we want things to work out, so we become super agreeable. We have a tendency to do this whether it’s with a potential customer or candidate.

Image from TheMeanings

I noticed when I started recruiting in 2007, I tried my hardest to make every aspect of the position and company sound like it was in perfect alignment with the prospective candidate’s hopes and dreams. Often times in the end, the prospect’s interest fizzled and nothing materialized. I quickly decided that my overly eager (basically desperate) approach was turning people off. It’s basic psychology right? If it’s all too easy, there’s got to be a catch. We’re all skeptics at the end of the day and know that nothing is perfect. Why wait to find out later what the horrible fine print really reads?  Ever since my neophyte days of 2007, I’ve kept a fairly cool head, simply presented the facts and “sold” the company and position when it was appropriate. Without forcing it.

During our sales workshop last month, sales speaker and guru Rich Chiarello summed it up beautifully: “If you don’t challenge your prospect,  you’re not going to make the sale.” While at first stunned and confused, it all began to make sense to me. We’re all fairly defensive by nature, so when someone tells me that I may not be right for them, 9 times out of 10, I want to prove them wrong. Be real when you challenge someone though – remember that forcing anything is never the way to go. Don’t challenge for the sake of challenging, but when it makes sense.

Chiarello tells numerous sales executives in the room that if they’re selling a software solution designed for enterprise customers to an SMB prospect, address that issue right away. Tell them up front that this solution might not be right for them. Soon you’ll find the SMB prospect finding ways to convince YOU that the software will indeed work in their organization. Wow. No way. I have to try this out.

I decided to give it a shot with an incredibly passive candidate who I, quite frankly, was lucky to get even a 15-minute slot with. Early in the conversation, this candidate says to me that she’s “expensive” and that “it’s gonna take a lot” to pry her away from her current package. Instead of cowering and going on a spiel about career advancement and higher potential earnings as she moves up the ladder, I stopped dead in my tracks and said, “You know what? I think you’re right. You have a great job at a stable company with a solid base salary. You’re comfortable and secure! I don’t think taking a lower base to gamble on stock options would appeal to someone like you.”

Awkward silence.

“Well … let’s not jump to conclusions!” she immediately retorted. Long story short, there was no way in hell this prospective candidate was going to let me size her up and dismiss her the way I was ever-so-politely doing. Lo and behold, she is now in final round interviews with one of our portfolio companies and we believe an offer is likely to be made.

Director of Recruiting

Victor Mahillon is the Director of Recruiting at <a href="">Kamcord</a>. Previously he was a Talent manager at OpenView.